Tyreke is another person to take into account in this whole situation. This is a player that was admittedly lost under Paul Westphal. Perhaps the best thing for Smart to do was to put the ball exclusively in Tyreke's hands. Tyreke is the only ankle-breaker on the Kings outside of Isaiah Thomas. He also has been in the league for two and a half years and knows the ropes a little bit. It is no coincidence that Tyreke is averaging much closer to his 20-5-5 output as a rookie than his uncharacteristic lack of production the past year and a half. It is amazing what psychology has to do with how players perform. If a coach shows confidence in a player, win or lose, the player will most likely respond to that in a positive way more often than not. That is what we are seeing with the Kings. Yeah that 27-point loss to a red hot Sixers team was demoralizing to say the least, but you have to put it in context. To come back the next night and get a quality win on the second night of a back-to-back against any NBA team is a pretty big positive no matter who you play. Winning on the road is something that Smart has mentioned as the key to being a competitive team. Tonight was the first step in that process.
That's another thing I love about Smart; he understands that becoming a good NBA team is a process. He doesn't get impatient with his rotations and sit players because they have a bad shooting night. That was a prominent criticism of Westphal, and for good reason. Again it goes back to player psychology. If a player fears that having a bad shooting night might affect his playing time, is he more likely to play differently than he normally would if he had no fear? Absolutely! Smart rides out the storm no matter what it brings. He understands when to call timeouts and he doesn't second guess the players he subs in the game. Right or wrong, the players know that Smart has their back. As a result, they play harder because they respect him as their coach. After awhile the wins start coming and Smart's job becomes easier. No longer does he have to maintain his optimism despite the losses. Eventually the players become intrinsically optimistic because they are seeing the results of their play and effort in the box score. Again, this isn't rocket science but just a little insight into effective human relations. Belief and effort are more powerful than talent and athleticism many times.
Like Smart and the rest of the Kings organization continue to state: It's a process. The Kings aren't going to win every night or even most nights. The important part is that they don't have regular, extended losing streaks. They need to stay afloat on the road and take care of business at PBP. The Western Conference is very wide open this year after the top 5 or 6 teams. Teams like Memphis and New Orleans aren't what they were last year. The Clippers have improved, along with some other teams, but the Kings have proven that they can play with any team in the league on a given night. With Smart at the helm, the Kings will bring it most nights and will be pretty competitive on a regular basis imo. This team has talent. Finally now we are starting to see the importance of a little psychology and how it affects the performance of some of this franchise's most important players.
Stay tuned for some more Smart psychology.